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The gravitational force of depression is devastatingly and magnificently explored in Lars von Trier’s Melancholia.
By dividing his focus between the fates of two sisters, Von Trier explores the inner melancholic demons that plague Justine (Kirsten Dunst) on her wedding day, and the manifold fear Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) holds towards the strange, eponymous planet that appears to be bearing down on Earth.
Von Trier also manages to outdo the jaw-dropping beauty of Antichrist’s operatic opening, with Melancholia’s first frames unfolding in an utterly stunning, ultra-slow motion sequence.
Dunst and Gainsbough are simply glorious on screen. Their effortless performances are masterfully supported by an enviable ensemble, which includes luminaries Charlotte Rampling and John Hurt, a wantonly underused Alexander Skarsgård, and an uncharacteristically effete
Kiefer Sutherland. Audiences will no doubt pick their favourite of the film’s two parts, with Justine’s wedding feeling like a distilled, perfected version of Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married, while Claire’s angst builds towards the film’s transcendent climax.
There is nothing subtle about the metaphors at work here, especially as von Trier steeps
his film in Wagner’s epic tones. But depression as apocalypse is both a horrifying and beautiful sight to see, making Melancholia a piece of cinema that will leave you reeling.